As scientific breakthroughs continue to affect every aspect of our lives, an increasing number of artists — as creators and investigators themselves — have been examining the meaning and urgent implications of genetic research. Some work on their own, while others collaborate with scientists, but in either case, these artists engage with science in innovative ways that help us visualize what it means to be human in a genetic age. The artworks featured in Paradise Now explored the possibilities for health and human improvement generated by the decoding of the human genome, as well as the impact of biotechnology on animal and plant life. These works addressed issues of race, economics, reproduction, privacy, health/human improvement, and food safety. Genetics inspired artists not only to question mortality, but to speculate on the moral, spiritual, legal, and aesthetic issues that go beyond life and death to embrace notions of immortality. Although artists have long borrowed scientific images for their art, science’s machines, methods, resources, and controversies have given them new materials with which to examine a changing world. A scientist’s work may have a direct and practical application; an artist’s goal might be more subjective. Each searches for truths that contribute to the quality and understanding of our lives; each seeks to make at least some of the mysteries of life more comprehensible and, perhaps, less overwhelming.
Paradise Now asked visitors to consider the impact and implications of genetic research in their lives and ponder the question: What kind of “paradise” are we rushing towards now?
Artists included Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey, Suzanne Anker, Dennis Ashbaugh, Aziz + Cucher, Brandon Ballengee, Natalie Bookchin and Jin Lee, Christine Borland, Nancy Burson, Helen Chadwick, Kevin Clarke, Keith Cottingham, Bryan Crockett, Christine Davis, Mark Dion, George Gessert, Rebecca Howland, Ronald Jones, Eduardo Kac, davidkremers, Jane Lackey, Julian Laverdiere, Karl S. Mihail and Tran T. Kim-Trang, Larry Miller, Steve Miller, Frank Moore, Alexis Rockman, Bradley Rubenstein, Nicolas Rule, Christy Rupp, Gary Schneider, Laura Stein, Eva Sutton, Catherine Wagner, Carrie Mae Weems, Gail Wight, and Janet Zweig.
An accompanying catalogue is available, with an introduction by the curators and essays by artist and critic Frank Moore; Mike Fortun, Assistant Professor of Science and Technology at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Ricki Lewis, author, biologist, and genetic counselor; and Bernard Possidente, Professor of Biology at Skidmore College.